Friday, October 24, 2014

Harissa Cauliflower Sloppy Joe: Cooking with Corinne Rice

Have I got a treat for you today.

One of my favorite things to do through this blog is cook with others.  It's always a learning experience, it's a lovely way to socialize, and is the perfect antidote to screaming mouse syndrome.

I recently became part of a particularly awesome Facebook group called inspired women of los angeles.  It's a place where a photographer might seek a make-up artist for a shoot, an artist might ask if anyone knows of a space to show her work, where someone going through a rough patch might seek a little help, or someone feeling especially moved might offer some words of inspiration. The spirit of collaboration is strong with this group. So, when a member posted a few photos from her dabblings in food styling, and they were totally amazing and professional and gorgeous, I had to reach out.

I suggested a collaboration, and a few emails later, I was standing outside an apartment in Venice, groceries in hand, no idea who or what to expect.  I shouldn't have worried.  The door opened, and there was Corinne Rice -- line drawings tattooed on her arms, a mop of black curls, and a sparkly smile -- greeting me with a hug.

Corinne Rice does a lot of things. She is a mostly-vegan chef, with a deep emphasis on nutrition. She hosts pop-up dinners around Venice (with one coming up this Sunday.  Details at the end of the post), she does private health coaching, and is working on healthy living workshops and classes for busy moms to learn to make baby food and 10-minute meals (she's mom to a flirty one-year-old named Atlas herself). She's also self-publishing a cookbook, which will feature her plant-based recipes and will be filled with her gorgeous photos.  Look out for it in early 2015.

The recipe she chose for us to cook together was one from the upcoming cookbook.  We made a cauliflower-based sloppy joe, the foundation of its flavor being a fiery harissa.  As she described the recipe, as well as others she was developing, I at first had trouble wrapping my head around the flavors. Her cooking doesn't really sit in one cuisine or other: Middle Eastern flavors might share the plate with say, southeast Asian ones.  She uses a heavy hand with spice, and her unusual flavor combinations straddle sweet and savory.  By the end of the afternoon, though, I trusted that even her strangest-sounding ideas would taste great.

As we cooked, we talked, and it was such a treat to be able to go deep on things I've always wondered about.  Corinne turned to nutrition as a way out of dark times, and since tackling addiction, she's immersed herself in that world.  Her knowledge of how what we consume affects our bodies is encyclopedic and thorough.  I asked about different ethnic diets purported to be the key to long life (real commonalities between high life-expectancy groups:  sweet potatoes, wine, self-love). I expressed how overwhelmed I can get with conflicting information about what to eat (her sage advice: every body is different, be mindful and intuitive and find what works for you).

Corinne moves easily in her narrow kitchen, jotting down every measurement as she develops a recipe, adjusting her notes as she tastes and polishes measurements. She's made great use of her space, adding shelves below the counter where she stores every spice imaginable in blue mason jars.

I'm no stranger to cauliflower as a meat substitute in recipes, as the delicious Buffalo cauliflower at Mohawk Bend has made me a believer.  Of course, beyond some nominal resemblances to traditional sloppy joe, there wasn't much similarity.  But, it didn't matter.  The dish had a complex flavor, with heat and brightness  from the harissa (her recipe included preserved lemon and fresh mint), and a rich, slightly sweet base of tomatoes and red bell pepper.  With beautiful millet bread from Culver City's Rising Hearts Bakery, it made a filling and satisfying meal.

Her styling is meticulous.  She places an old wood table in the light of a corner window in her bedroom, and fills it with beautiful things picked up from here and there:  vintage plates, an artfully placed cheesecloth, an air plant pulled from a hanging in the house.  With just the natural light and a tall tripod bought used, Corinne creates moody, lush images.

Aside from our main course, she was excited to share a green curry coconut latte with basil whip.  The  drink was at once familiar and strange, warm and comforting.  Corinne has a professional whipped cream dispenser bottle, and got downright giggly dispensing pale green basil-scented whipped coconut cream directly into our hands.  And rightly so: it was delicious.  Here's her photo of the lattes; recipe will be in the book.

First and last photo by Corinne Rice.

After cooking, we took baby Atlas up to the roof and dined, the sun warming us, and a wholesome hand-made meal nourishing us.

Here are some ways to keep up with Corinne:
 - Catch her pop-up supper club this Sunday. The menu is pretty mindblowing (fennel gelato, what?)
 - Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
 - Or just start at her website.

Harissa Cauliflower Sloppy Joe
Recipe by Corinne Rice
Makes 5-6 servings

3 oz dried chilis of your choice (chipotle works great; we used cascabel, and the skins were a little hard to break down)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons preserved lemon
3 Tablespoons mint
1/2 teaspoon salt

Soak the chilis for 3-4 hours. Strain and then remove the stems and seeds.

Toast the caraway, coriander and cumin seeds on a dry skillet over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, swirling the pan constantly.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender until it forms a creamy paste.

Sloppy Joe
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
3 cups tomato sauce (with no added sugar)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 head cauliflower, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup coconut sugar
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons steak seasoning
1/4-3/4 cups harissa paste (see note)
salt to taste
basil to garnish

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut oil, garlic, and onion. Sautee until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower has become very soft, resembling a similar texture to ground beef.

Serve the sloppy joes over your favorite gluten free bread. Garnish with basil.

A note on harissa: Depending on how spicy your harissa paste is and how hot you want the sloppy joes, you may want to add more or less.


  1. sounds like a fantastic collaboration! I wish we had groups like that over here in Switzerland. :)

    1. thanks sofia, maybe you should start one. =)
      (gorgeous website by the way!)